Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

This greeting sends our best wishes for a safe and happy New Year to all of you.  Mom has now completed two weeks of treatment and is feeling quite well.  The week progressed quickly and smoothly, without too much difficulty at all!

Margaret and Sr. Anne attended her second chemo infusion with her on Tuesday.  It is so nice for her to have company while she sits patiently waiting for the administration of the medication.  There are so many others that do not have the added caregiving that Mom does ...... it is important for us all to realize and acknowledge how lucky we are to be apart of this family.

She will have a quiet evening tonight, most likely long asleep before the New Year rings in!

Happy New Year's!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Treatment - Week #2

Mom started her second week of treatment today, a very pleasant, sunny Monday in Napa.  As we headed out to the car, she and Tom took a garden walk.  They checked the gardening work Jose had completed earlier and picked some Meyer lemons to share with the staff at the Queen's Cancer Center.
Mom and Tom today before leaving for treatment
She will have her weekly chemotherapy tomorrow morning at 9:00 am, followed by a visit with Dr. Freeto to "triple check" her PEG tube.  The pain from this procedure has subsided and she no longer has discomfort from this.  She does fatigue easily and we encourage her to pace herself.

How fortunate we are to have family knowledgeable in the medical field!  Thank you Julie, for coming by today to check Mom's breathing (Julie is Mom's niece and a Respiratory Therapist).  She is grateful to you for taking the time to stop in and visit with her this morning.

We truly are so lucky to have such a strong support group, so many wonderful family members and friends - thank you everyone!  I know that Grandma and Grandpa Bertain are looking down at us all, and are very proud of each and everyone of us.  They set such outstanding examples for us, didn't they!!!


Saturday, December 25, 2010

From Our Family to Yours

To all our family and friends,

On behalf of Mom, we send our love and best wishes to all of you on this Christmas day.  We are so grateful to have such a wonderful, loving, supportive group cheering her on during this challenging time.

She made it through her first week of treatment with courage and perserverance.  We are so proud and impressed by her strength.

Mom is having a restful holiday at home, with frequent "pop-in" visits from family.  Margaret's family made the journey from Long Beach earlier in the week and were able to have their time with both Margaret and Mom.

Yesterday evening, Tom and his family brought dinner to her and celebrated Christmas Eve in a quiet gathering at the house.  My girls and I went to early Mass this morning and stopped in for a quick visit to wish her a "good morning".  We will go by later today and share our Christmas meal with her.

Tom's Golden Retriever, Libby and Katie's Border Collie, Bacall - have been stopping in to lend their support to Mom as well.  Pet Therapy can be very comforting to those that aren't feeling so well.  We are fortunate to have such awesome, well-behaved great-grand dogs that have be-friended Mom.

Bacall & Libby waiting to offer some Pet Therapy

Awhile back, Margaret and I were referred to as being Mom's wardens!  We do tend to be a bit protective of her ...... she is quite precious to all of us.  Margaret's daughter, Kim gifted both of us with official Warden caps.

The Wardens and their Charge
We wish all of you safe travels and a very, very blessed Christmas.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Treatment has begun!

Mom began her treatment yesterday, starting with radiation.  Today we again had a session of radiation and are amidst the first treatment of chemotherapy.

She will follow a regular routine of daily radiation of about 35 visits and weekly chemotherapy of 5 visits.  Currently radiation will be at 2:00 pm daily, Monday through Friday.  Chemotherapy will take place on Tuesday mornings.  Since she is having concurrent treatment, her schedule on chemo days may be adjusted slightly.

Even though the days following the port and PEG tube were difficult, we can now see how they are really paying off.  This first session of chemo started very smoothly as accessing her fragile veins was a breeze through the port!  Mom has even put back on some of the weight she has lost - Margaret and I have been pumping nutrition into her through the PEG tube.  She continues to eat normally when she likes, but we can be assured of her nutrition now.

Mom sends her love and Christmas wishes to you all!


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Back home!

Mom came through her procedures very well.  Doctors Freeto and Klingman were able to complete both the port and the PEG tube at the same time yesterday morning.  This meant she only had to be sedated once, making her recovery much easier.

She spent the afternoon resting in her room on One South at the Queen.  Her nurses Lisa and Christina were wonderful to her.  There are now many new owners of Christmas pins at the hospital!  Though no one likes having to go into the hospital ..... it is fun for us to see the staff wearing Mom's pins proudly.

The Bard Power Port doesn't seem to be bothering her too much, but the PEG tube will take some getting used to.  Being located right in the center of her abdomen makes moving around quite uncomfortable.  They told us it might be a week before this passes.  The good news is that we now can be assured that Mom will be getting her needed daily nutrition.  She will continue to eat as much as she can orally, but will be supplemented by way of the PEG. 

Even with this pain, she knew how important it was for her to stay tough and keep moving!

Margaret and Mom walking laps around the ward

Friday, December 10, 2010


After many, many appointments this week - we are definitely glad it is Friday evening! 

Today Mom had the radiation simulation which was really quite interesting.  They put a plastic mesh board over her face and shoulders.  This was heated up and slowly formed around her features.  As it cooled, it hardened to make an exact mold of her face.  This mold will be used daily for her radiation treatments.  They allowed Margaret and I to watch the process.  Laurie was the technician working with Mom and she was absolutely wonderful!

Laurie explaining to Mom what was happening

Debbie, Cara and Marianne are the nurses that will be attending to Mom each day at the Cancer Center.  They have all been so kind.  Here is Mom with Marianne.  She has been a good friend to Mom for several years.
Mom and Marianne (note the pin!)

After leaving the Cancer Center, we went straight to the dentist to pick up an oral device that Mom will use at night to help protect her teeth.  They expect the radiation to reduce her normal saliva.

By the time we returned back to the house, it was close to our scheduled appointment with the nutritionist from Apria.  Her name is Cara also and was so informative.  Apria will be providing all of the needed supplies and equipment for the feeding tube. 

I feel like I repeat myself so frequently when I tell all of you how wonderful these professionals are that are apart of Mom's new medical team!  Cara is another great addition to this group.

Cara (from Apria) at Mom's house this afternoon with Mom

The schedule for next week will be busy as well...

Monday we meet with Dr. Klingman regarding the chemotherapy port.

Tuesday, Mom will be admitted to the Queen for an overnight stay.  They will put in both the feeding tube and the port.  She is scheduled to come home on Wednesday.

Thursday we will meet again with Cara from Apria to review our instructions for using the feeding tube.

The following Monday, 12/20 we will be attending a Chemotherapy Teaching class to learn all about that type of treatment.

The show should finally get underway on Tuesday, 12/21!!

We hope everyone has a safe and relaxing weekend,

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Three down, three to go

We met with two doctors today - Dr. Mirda, Mom's oncologist and a new doctor - Dr. Freeto, the gastroenterologist.

The appointment with Mirda was just to confirm that we had chosen to go ahead with treatment here in Napa and bring him up to speed with our scheduled appointments with the other physicians.  We also met his nurse Oola, who was very, very kind to Mom.

Mom and Dr. Mirda

We met Dr. Freeto for the first time today.  He is an interesting character, a bit more "fun" than the others!  He and Dr. Klingman are buddies and he told us that he would consult with him on the schedule for the feeding tube and port so that both procedures could occur at close to the same time to make things easier on Mom.  Tentatively, the plan is for Mom to go to the Queen on Tuesday.  Freeto will put the feeding tube in and later that day or Wednesday morning, Klingman would put the chemo port in.  Dr. Freeto said that he likes to keep his patients overnight after having this procedure done.

We have the day off tomorrow! ....... well, kind of ........  She has to have labwork done  :(

I shall report back Friday, following the dental appointment Thursday and radiation simulation on Friday.


P.S. Just a reminder to anyone who still needs to get their flu shots.  The County Health Department will be administering them at the Senior Center this Friday!

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Busy Week

This week will be another busy week for Mom.  So far, we are scheduled for 4 doctors appointments.  Today was with her primary care physician, Dr. Jewell.

The office lights were a bit bright for my phone camera,
but this is Mom with her young Dr. Jewell.
He has been awesome with Mom the last several years!

Tomorrow, Tuesday, we meet with Dr. Mirda and Dr. Freeto.  Dr. Freeto is a new doctor for Mom.  He will be the Gastroenterologist that will put in the PEG tube (feeding tube).  This tube is being put in as a precautionary measure, just in case we get into a situation where she is unable to maintain proper nutrition.

Wednesday is clear!

Thursday is a dental appointment with Dr. Dittman and her weekly hair appointment with Lisa.

Friday we go for the radiation simulation at the Queen of the Valley Cancer Center.  They will be fitting Mom with a mesh mask that will be used daily for her radiation treatments.  Dr. Knister will review with us more information specifically related to Mom's radiation process.

Monday, 12/13 - we meet with Dr. Klingman.  He is the surgeon that will insert the port for the chemotherapy.

Whew.....!  We are definitely wearing a path on the newly paved roads between Beckworth Drive and Trancas.

Margaret has left for a day of business meetings in San Francisco and will return on Wednesday.  She has been here continuously since she arrived on November 7th!

Despite our battle with cancer, we find ways to have fun with Mom
....... as the Warden turns over her charge to the younger sister!

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Decision has been made!

After our consulation this morning with Dr. James Knister, it was very clear to all of us - and most importantly - to Mom,  that the right choice is to proceed with treatment right here in Napa.

We feel completely confident in this decision!  Dr. Knister was both compassionate and intelligent.  He was gently informative while being straightforward and forthright.  Dr. Knister gave Mom almost two full hours of his time, carefully explaining the radiation treatment process.

And so we begin our journey .......  Dr. Daniel Mirda will be the Medical Oncologist, Dr. Knister will be the Radiation Oncologist and Dr. William Ryan from UCSF will remain as the Ear, Nose and Throat physician consulting on her followup.

We expect Mom's treatment to begin before Christmas and continue for about two months.

Knowing how things work in our family, I predict she will be finished about the time the Tulip tree should be ready to bloom!!!!!

She is a true inspiration to all of us!  I will continue to update this blog with her progress and perseverance.

Thank you so much to all of you for your prayers, support and love.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Patience is a virtue .....

Though we have seen many doctors and still have more yet to visit - it is so important that we remain patient as we gather the opinions of the cancer specialists.

We have one more appointment this week here in Napa.  Consultations are also set with both Medical and Radiation Oncologists in San Francisco.  Sometimes I feel like we are taking a college course!  As we sit in the doctors' offices ..... pen and pad ready .....tape recorders ready to record ..... it is as though we are taking a semester final.  Only we know this is much more important!

November seems to have flown by and here we are in December.  We expect to have decisions made within the next couple of weeks, and treatment started prior to Christmas.

The house smells wonderful - with the scent of a fresh fir tree.  Tom and Teresa made a trip to Truckee yesterday to get Christmas trees - what a treat for Mom!  The weekend will be spent decorating with all of her special holiday objects and ornaments (pictures to follow!)

Love to all,